The Falcons will get their first look at the Carolina Panthers without quarterback Cam Newton, who recently was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury.
Kyle Allen, who played at Texas A&M and Houston, has replaced Newton in the lineup and has posted a 5-2 record as a starter. The Falcons (2-7) are set to play the Panthers (5-4) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
“We’re going to go through some growing pains,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said to the Charlotte media Monday. “He’s going to give us everything that he can, which I most certainly do appreciate.”
After winning his first four starts, Allen, who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2018, has lost two of the past three, including a 24-16 loss to Green Bay in the snow at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
“I thought he played well,” Rivera said. “At the end of the day, we were in position to win the game or at least tie the game. Again, I felt very good about what he did.”
Allen has completed 144 of 234 passes (61.5%) for 1,598 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions and has a passer rating of 87.2.
Allen has leaned heavily on running back Christian McCaffrey and second-year wide receiver D.J. Moore.
McCaffrey is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing, as he has 989 yards on 185 carries and 11 rushing touchdowns. He’s also caught 48 passes for 396 yards and has three receiving touchdowns.
Moore has 54 catches for 684 yards and one touchdown. Moore has posted back-to-back 100-yard receiving games. He caught 9 of 11 targets for 120 yards against the Packers. He caught 7 of 10 targets for 101 yards in a 30-20 win over Tennessee on Nov. 3.
Also, wide receiver Curtis Samuel is playing well. He has 34 catches for 442 yards and four touchdowns.
“Curtis is coming along in his role,” Rivera said. “I’m very excited about what we are getting from DJ. I just think he’s a young guy that’s blossomed.”
It’s been hard for teams to key on McCaffrey as Allen tries to utilize all of his weapons, including tight end Greg Olsen, who has 35 catches for 429 yards and two touchdowns.
“They've really added speed, the way they've added Moore and Samuel to the receiving group,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “These guys can make a ton of plays. McCaffrey is picking up right where he left off in terms of the run game, the pass game.”
The Falcons have been impressed by Allen.
“He's certainly got a strong arm,” Quinn said. “He's able to make all the throws. He can get outside the pocket and rip it, too.”
On defense, the Panthers lead the NFL in sacks with 36, but are giving up 136.7 yards rushing per game, which ranks 29th in the league.
Defensive end Mario Addison leads the Panthers in sacks, with seven. There are seven other players with at least three sacks including former Falcons Bruce Irvin (3.5) and defensive tackle Dontario Poe (three).
“We’ve always been high on Addison as a rusher,” Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. “Bruce Irvin is playing on the other side.”
Panther rookie Brian Burns, who has 4.5 sacks, tried to play with a broken hand, but has had his snaps decreased recently.
“Defensively, a lot of respect for their front seven,” Quinn said. “They've added to an already strong group from outside and inside. Gerald (McCoy) inside, Bruce outside, draft picks. I thought they really reloaded themselves in the front seven.
“Although they lost Thomas Davis, we know what a good player Shaq (Thompson) is. Most teams, just like us, they play a lot of nickel as well.”
The Falcons swept the Panthers last season, winning 31-24 in Atlanta on Sept. 9 and 24-10 in Charlotte on Dec. 23.
The Falcons lead the series 30-18 in regular-season games.
“We have a divisional opponent coming in this week in Atlanta,” Rivera said. “They are coming off a big win last week. They’ve struggled this year, but they found a bit of footing this past Sunday. ... We have to (fix) some things, especially the run defense.”